Why Is Stipe Miocic The Heavyweight GOAT We Don't Want?
Stipe Miocic has now defended the UFC heavyweight title three times. That’s a UFC record. Women’s bantamweight has only been in existence almost four years and already has a championship streak longer. The heavyweight title has been in existence for five times longer and only now has it been defended more than twice.
That alone should tell you just how much chaos there is at heavyweight, how thin the margins are. If lightweight is a tank of sharks, then heavyweight is a tank battle. All it takes is one good punch and boom. Any fighter who can put together a streak of wins has achieved something truly rare.
As such, it is undeniable that Miocic is now the best heavyweight in UFC history and, by simple extension, is the best heavyweight period. Old schoolers will take Fedor Emelianenko , hipsters will go with Fabricio Werdum, the Dutch say its Bas Rutten, and Brazilians say Big Nog. No one remember Cain Velasquez. However, make no mistake, Miocic is the best.
It is because of the streak. While defending the UFC belt would seem to be the be all, end all measuring stick of greatness, it is the streak that stands out. You could still say Fedor is the best by virtue of his myth. In absolute terms, Fedor’s career is longer and his record more padded (ignoring for a second how Miocic is 35 and still has at least two or three quality years left in him). And he has a few streaks to boast of - but none come close to rivalling Miocic man-for-man. Miocic has is the strength of schedule.
Miocic’s last loss was to Junior Dos Santos, a man whose lightning-quick hands are quicker than anyone Fedor ever fought even if they were stuck in second gear. Since then, he has rattled off six consecutive wins over a caliber of heavyweight Fedor only got to tangle with a handful of times in his career. Miocic even bested a few of the same guys. During Fedor’s heyday, his biggest tests tended to be followed by cupcakes. After his first Big Nog fight, he fought Egidijus Valavicius. After Cro Cop, he fought Zuluzinho. There was that one time he bested Heath Herring then Big Nog in his next fight or how Kevin Randleman and Mark Hunt followed his second and third fights with Mark Coleman. But Miocic fought Hunt then Andrei Arlovski then Werdum then Alistair Overeem, Dos Santos, Francis N’Gannou, bang, bang, bang, one right after the other. That is a tough streak to match.
Even so, even in recognizing Miocic’s greatness, there is a distinct feeling of apathy towards him. In his fight against N’Gannou he was the betting underdog. He was the marketing underdog. His own promotion didn’t even want him to win. Hell, Miocic is such an underdog he could cover his face with the Philadelphia Eagles underdog mask and more people would recognize him.
Miocic has the kind of traits that are unappreciated. He’s tougher than a leather catcher’s mitt. He’s opportunistic, having an innate feel of when and how to push an advantage. He listened to his teachers and does the KISS thing (Keep It Simple Stupid) with his boxing. There is almost nothing about Miocic that pops (except those last few punches his tired-ass opponents can’t get their hands up for).
As much as sports fans may say we love athletes we can relate to, we really don’t. We’re just as guilty of projecting as the superhero fanboys and girls. The same way a superhero fanboy says they relate to Peter Parker when really they imagine themselves slinging web like Spiderman, sports fans don’t like Sidney Crosby cause he sucks at growing facial hair like you or I. We like our athletes to be inhuman. We like our athletes because they do things amazing, things we dream of replicating (which is funny because you have a massive cadre of sports fans who also think they were a step or two away from realizing their pro dreams – so fantasy seems to be the theme).
Miocic is the anti-fantasy. He’s salt of the earth. He’s blue collar. The fact he’s a working fireman only melts away at his mystique even further. You imagine him as that big fella who works at your autoshop and, well, he kind of is. Somehow, the fact he’s a real, everyday kind of hero – the kind we all forget about when we start talking sports – detracts from his greatness.
Make no mistake. Miocic is the best heavyweight ever. There are few things less relatable. There are few things more impressive.
Rhys Dowbiggin @Rdowb
Rhys is the host of The Hurt Take on Not The Public Broadcaster